Feathered friends pose some problems

How could it possibly be the middle of July when it was spring just a moment ago and June was almost non-existent?

Somehow, the first day of summer and the longest day of the year didn’t register. Maybe because the rain was pouring down — and crossways — or because the furnace had to run to take the dampness and chill from the house, or because it was so steamy hot the air conditioner had to be engaged.

It must be me, though, because all the other usual signs of the season are on schedule. Dozens of baby sparrows plead with their harassed parents for more more more food and flutter their wings and open their beaks. If only there weren’t so many of them, but how can I discriminate when so many other kinds of baby birds also need fed that I can’t withhold the seed.

And then there are the barn swallows. I think there must be at least four generations of them who have taken over the rear portion of the barn and claim it for their own. As they say, be careful what you wish for or you might get it. The first year they came I was thrilled and admired the one nest they fashioned on a rafter.

The next year they built several more nests, and as in the old days when sparrows took over the barn, there became a decorating problem. Today there is definitely a problem and I’ve had to position a big fake owl on a stepladder to try and warn them not to nest in the front of the barn.

They persist, and daily wheel happily from front to back, decorating as they fly. Too often one of the pitiful nestlings takes a tumble from high in the eaves and the concrete floor ends that little life. Occasionally, one survives the fall and sits squeaking on the floor where Winny thinks it is a toy.

I gather it up, amid the cries of dozens — truly — alarmed relatives, and gently place it in the grass outside the back gate. I watch all the relatives come to check it out, and the poor little tyke flies across the grass to momentary safety. I’m such a sucker!

Not so with the chipmunks, who several years ago disillusioned me about their “cuteness” as I watched one drag a fluttering sparrow off to a den. I’ll tolerate one or two, if they keep off the window feeding board, but once they achieve that perch, they’re to be trapped and relocated.

I’ve lost track of how many I’ve evicted — one day I made three trips — and yesterday I had the most brazen one of all: it actually climbed the window screen, glaring in at me and demanding it be let inside! Guess what? It has joined all the others in a place which by now has to be teeming with chipmunks, all wondering what happened to what they thought was their happy home.

I’ve saved a November 2008 National Geographic which featured an article “The End of Night — Why We Need Darkness.” One of the quotes is, “We’ve lit up the night as if it were an unoccupied country, where nothing could be further from the truth.”

Artificial light from buildings confuses and traps birds and it is estimated that in North America at least 100 million birds, mostly low-flying songbirds, die each year in collisions with brightly lighted buildings.

I think of that as I bring in the suet containers before I go to bed — raccoons and skunks think they belong to them! — and no matter in which direction I look I see the unnatural glow of malls, hospitals, all manner of commercial and residential buildings.

It is almost impossible to find a star, even on a crystal clear night. This was country when I came here in 1946 and the night sky was filled with stars and planets and sometimes even Northern Lights. No more — and I’m thankful for the fireflies!

***

“Whoever has never kept a dog does not know what it is to love and be loved.” – Arthur Schopenhauer

About the Author

A lifelong resident of the Mahoning Valley, Janie Jenkins retired in 1987 as a feature writer and columnist at the Youngstown Vindicator. In June of that same year, she started writing her column, "On My Mind" for Farm and Dairy. She loves all animals and is an accomplished equestrienne. Local history is also one of her loves, and her home, the former Southern Park Stables, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. More Stories by Janie Jenkins

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